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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anindig(Photo: Robbt)

It's been a pivotal, unjust and enduring false narrative that Columbus "discovered" the Americas.

How could he have "found" the western hemisphere, when millions and millions of indigenous people were already living here? The whole premise of Columbus finding previously unknown territory - celebrated on October 13 as a federal holiday (although he never even touched ground in what is now the United States) - is a dangerous Eurocentric perspective. It is a keystone in the still-prevalent delusion that white colonizers "brought" civilization to the Americas. 

Next week, Truthout and BuzzFlash will be offering a brilliant book (available now) that comprehensively debunks the framing of the history of the Americas from a conqueror's perspective: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlasgowEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The movement on college campuses to divest from fossil fuels has been growing in the U.S. and currently has commitments from 13 schools including Stanford University. Now Glasgow University has become the first academic institution in Europe to decide to divest.

This is a victory for the student-led Glasgow University Climate Action Society (GUCAS). As in the U.S., the European movement is led primarily by students. After a year-long campaign involving more than 1,300 students, freedom of information requests, rallies, flash mobs, fake oil spills and banner drops, the University of Glasgow Court voted today to remove 18 million pounds (about 29 million dollars) from investments in fossil fuel companies over a ten-year period and to freeze further investments from its entire 128 million pound endowment.

In a petition posted at gofossilfree.org, the students wrote, “The university has both a moral and a financial duty to its students to withdraw its investments from the fossil fuel industry. The moral case is clear: if it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Furthermore, fossil fuels are a dangerous investment. The value of companies like Shell, BP and Chevron is based on the assumption that they will be able to dig up and sell their fossil fuel reserves. But if the world gets serious about stopping climate change, that would mean keeping 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and the assumption that forms the basis for these companies’ value will be undermined.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ascientist(Photo: pheezy

A modicum of help is on the way for scientists who are under siege from climate deniers, corporations, ALEC and even some government agencies sympathetic to Chamber of Commerce influence. According to an email received by BuzzFlash from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

A new program providing legal information, counseling and, when needed, formal representation to embattled scientists at no cost to them was unveiled today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This Alliance for Legal Protection of Science (ALPS) will also field a national network of volunteer attorneys from a variety of specialties to help PEER staff counsel provide pro bono legal assistance to besieged scientists.When public scientists’ research has economic or political significance, their findings and careers are sometimes put under pressure or attack from industries or interest groups, such as fossil-fuel extractors, chemical and other manufacturers, as well as the law firms and “think tanks” they finance. Individual researchers are often ill-equipped to counter well-funded harassment campaigns.  ALPS will organize legal and other resources to protect both targeted scientists and their work products. 

The support services are much needed, given that the mainstream corporate media generally accepts assaults on the integrity of climate scientists and their work as "valid" opposing viewpoints. This is a result of two developments in news coverage. First, there is the generally established practice in current mass media of offering the reader false equivalencies rather than the establishment of fact by reporters. Second - and this is likely related to the first point – most mainstream media outlets, particularly television, are owned by parent corporations who support the pursuit of profit over the findings of scientists. If scientific research - on global warming or environmental pollution - results in conclusions that could undercut the bottom line for businesses, then it is generally in the interest of big media to call proven fact into question.

Thursday, 09 October 2014 06:27

Sweden and the Waking of Eco-Integrity

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcologyEarth(Photo: NASA)Startling news: Sweden now recycles 99 percent of its waste.

At least that’s what people are saying, including an official website of Sweden itself: “Less than one per cent of Sweden’s household waste ends up in a rubbish dump.” There may be less to this statement than meets the eye, but before I address that issue, I need to pause at the jolt of ecstatic excitement and jubilant incredulity I felt for a moment — that maybe the resource-consuming, planet-destroying, multinational political and economic system I’m part of is capable of correcting its own insanity, committing itself to a sustainable future and embracing the circle of life.

I’ve gotten used to living with despair: that so little of our effort, energy, intelligence and determination are invested in creating a sustainable future; and, indeed, that humanity’s macro-organizations, its national governments, its multinational business enterprises, expend their enormous power not only contributing to the devastation but sabotaging every effort to make it stop.

I’ve felt trapped in a state of permanent disconnect. Human indifference and helplessness, on a scale that is large beyond reckoning and as tiny as the car key in my hand and the bag of trash at my doorstep, seems permanently planted between me and the natural world. Only humans create garbage. Beyond our reckoning, everything has a purpose — but we cannot access or be part of this purpose, even though we come from it.

What if humanity actually committed itself, at the level of a national government, to learning from and working with nature? What if environmentalism didn’t mean (only) marching in the streets, pumping one’s fists or chaining oneself to a tree? I respect and honor such efforts — 300,000-plus people on the streets of New York demanding a sustainable future — but know that the point isn’t to celebrate individual righteousness but, rather, to awaken the integrity of our most powerful institutions.

2014.10.8.Water.BFDan River coal ash spill, February 2014. (Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance/Rick Dove)

RHIANNON FIONN FOR ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Thanks to the third-largest and most recent coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant in Eden, N.C., this past February—and the federal investigation and political nonsense that followed—it may seem as though coal ash is only a North Carolina issue, but it is not. Coal ash pollution is a national issue (well, truly, it’s an international issue) that warrants national media attention, though it rarely enjoys that sort of spotlight.

However, with MSNBC’s coal-ash segment last night and news from The Charlotte Business Journal that CBS’ “60 Minutes” is working on a special investigation that should air in about a month, the spotlight is coming coal ash’s way.

This will be 60 Minutes’ second special on coal ash.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ashkleindoc(Photo:BlueRobot)

Naomi Klein's brilliant 2008 book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was a visionary breakthrough in understanding how the oligarchy uses catastrophic circumstances to seize economic control of nations. Taking advantage of natural, political and financial upheaval, Klein cogently argues, the apostles of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand use disaster as an opportunity to implement extremist free-market economic policies while reducing government spending for the common good.

The mainstream media and political narrative that we have lived with for years - of lurching from one sensationalist crisis to another - has evolved into a continuous "shock doctrine." The neoliberal forces of unfettered capitalism and the global consolidation of wealth advance as we are distracted by lurid coverage that stimulates our fears but not our brains. Akira Watts eloquently addressed this ceaseless barrage of "fourth-estate" terror in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday, "ISIS, Ebola, and Why Fear of the Unknown Makes Us Stupid."

The never-ending fusillade of frightening images and news evoke the fear of monsters from our childhood. It is news that both attracts and repulses us because of its titillating appeal to out primal phobias.

2014.10.8.Hightower.BFMarriott Hotel, downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Chris / Flickr)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As an old popular song from the 1970s asks, what do you get if you "work your fingers right down to the bone"? Boney fingers.

As the hardworking housekeepers for the sprawling Marriott chain of hotels know, that's more than a cute song lyric; it's the truth. Mostly women, these "room attendants," as they're called, are paid a poverty wage of barely $8 an hour by this hugely profitable lodging conglomerate to preform a very hard, physical job. Compelled to do very heavy lifting at unsafe speeds, they suffer the highest injury rate in the so-called "hospitality" industry. Some two-thirds of them have to take pain medication just to get through their day of heaving 100-pound mattresses, stooping to clean floors and toilets and twisting to readjust furniture in 15 to 20 rooms per shift.

Yet, Marriott's CEO publicly hails the very women he exploits as "the heart of the house," saying his chain likes to express its appreciation to them with "special recognition events" during International Housekeepers Week. Yes, exploited room refreshers are not rewarded with a living wage, but with their very own congratulatory week — how great is that?

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStealthJesus(Photo: John Singleton Copley)In 1990, a young Ralph Reed, newly hired by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition to oversee its daily operations, told the Los Angeles Times that, "What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time. I honestly believe that in my lifetime, we will see a country once again governed by Christians...and Christian values."

A year later, in an interview with Norfolk, Virginia's Virginian-Pilot, Reed talked about the organization's stealth political strategy, a strategy aimed at having Religious Right candidates hide their social agenda, while talking about other issues more attractive to voters, such as lower taxes: "I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."

In a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Reed, who left the Christian Coalition a few years later to start up his own public relations firm, and was later caught up in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, explained stealth: "It's like guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."

In the intervening nearly twenty-five years, the Religious Right has used a number of strategies, from Reed's stealth tactics to developing high-powered political organizations and high-profile leaders like the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell, the Christian Coalition's Pat Robertson, and Focus on the Family's James Dobson; from placing a succession of anti-gay and anti-abortion initiatives on state ballots to mobilizing committed conservative grassroots activists.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

acharitphil(Photo: Thomas Hawk)

Yes, BuzzFlash has repeatedly posted commentaries on how the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States have received 95 percent of the economic benefits from the post-2008 recovery. That alone is an astonishing and appalling statistic. However, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the richest people in the US are now giving a smaller percentage of their income to charity than they did before the economy cratered.

In an October 5 article entitled, "As Wealthy Give Smaller Share of Income to Charity, Middle Class Digs Deeper," the Chronicle reports,

As the recession lifted, poor and middle class Americans dug deeper into their wallets to give to charity, even though they were earning less. At the same time, according to a new Chronicle analysis of tax data, wealthy Americans earned more, but the portion of the income they gave to charity declined.

Using the IRS data, The Chronicle was able to track gifts to charity at the state, county, metropolitan-area, and ZIP code levels. The data were for gifts to charity among taxpayers who itemize deductions on their tax forms. It captured $180-billion that was given to charity in 2012, or about 80 percent of the total amount given to charity as tabulated by "Giving USA...."

The wealthiest Americans—those who earned $200,000 or more—reduced the share of income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Meanwhile, Americans who earned less than $100,000 chipped in 4.5 percent more of their income during the same time period. Middle- and lower-income Americans increased the share of income they donated to charity, even as they earned less, on average, than they did six years earlier.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEbola(Photo: CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith)As weeks go, last week wasn’t exactly a great one. It began with the inevitable appearance of Ebola in the United States. It ended with ISIS beheading yet another hostage. Our two biggest fears on the global stage just flexed their muscles and got scarier. It is no surprise then, that there is a panicky edge to the discussion of either topic, or that the proposed solutions to either issue are becoming ever more extreme and outlandish.

Let’s take a step back for a second. Yes, Ebola is awful. The death toll in West Africa is over 3000, and the total number of cases could hit 1.4 million within 4 months. Given that the current outbreak has a mortality rate that is pushing 60%, those are grim figures. But, despite widespread panic, the number of confirmed cases within the United States remains at exactly one. And yes, ISIS is awful. Over 5000 Iraqis have died as a result of its military actions, and ISIS is singularly unconcerned with avoiding things like genocide or war crimes. But how many Western hostages have been beheaded by ISIS? Four, a number that will hopefully remain unchanged.

That last paragraph could be taken in a very nasty way. No Americans dying? Eh, who cares? That isn’t my intention at all. What is interesting is how we’ve seemed to settle upon ISIS and Ebola as our designated fears of the season, especially since things aren’t going all that well elsewhere. From the Ukraine, to Hong Kong, to Egypt, to Estonia, there are any number of areas in the world where things could very rapidly spiral out of control just as easily as the situation in Iraq and Syria. Back at home, heart disease kills 600,000 every year, and even a lightweight like measles has taken 41 in 2014. Again, it would seem that there are many things out there that are every bit as threatening, if not more threatening, than Ebola.

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